also known as Kelmy (Russian), Kelem or Kelm (Yiddish). [NOT Chelm!]


  • Under the Russian Empire, Kelme was in the Province [Guberniya] of Kovne, [now Kaunas, Lithuania.] 55x38'N, 22x56'E (see US Board on Geographic Names, USSR Vol. III)
  • Kelme developed near the important Riga-Karaliaucius (presently: Kaliningrad) highway. The clean, peaceful town is spread out on the banks of the Krazante River. (reference Lithuanian Government description)
  • Maps 1:50,000 map in Russian, dated 1939 Library of Congress Call Number G7000/S50/.R8, Sheet N-34-22-b. 1:100,000 map in Russian, ca. 1930 Library of Congress call number G7050/s100/.L5, Sheet 1303.
  • Click on the map to locate Kelm on a Baltic map from 1882 kelme map
  • View location via Mapquest (Then click your browser's "Back" button to return here.)


The settlement has been known of since 1410. For a long time, Kelme was just a poor, dusty little town at the crossing of the Krazante and Vilbenas Rivers. However, from 1591 to 1940 (the beginning of Sovietization in Lithuania), Kelme was home to the Gruzevskis family and later, to the Gruzevskis palace. In 1836-1858 a road was built through the town from Riga to Prussia, and Kelme became an important post station and a lively tradeplace. Kelme was particulary known for its horse markets. (reference Lithuanian Government description)

Information Population 3705. Manufacturing: Shoes, felt, bricks; Flour milling, Distilling. Has Museum. Under Kovno government until 1920. (Ref Columbia Lippencott Gazzeteer) Center of the Mussar (Ethics) movement in Lithuania. Jewish community said to be 300 years old.

        Population statistics:
        1847 -- 759
        1897 -- 2710/3927=69% Jewish
        1923 --1599

Small shopkeepers, artisans, some grain and timber merchants, brush factories and tanneries. A number of prominent scholars served as Rabbis (Ref. Encyclopedia Judaica)

    Memories of 1910 Kelme:

95 percent of the inhabitants of Kelme around 1905 were Jewish. On Shabbos the town took on a glow. The gentiles lived in the country and farmed, coming to town to market their produce. The major streets, bearing names of the destination city and leading out from the center of the town, were: Tavrige Gas, Shavli Gas, and Rasseine Gas leading to Taurage, Siauliai, and Raseinei respectively. Other streets were Kunigisse Gas (Church Street, later named Basniche Gas), Nemokske Gas, and Shul Gas.

Typical businesses in Kelme were: candlemaking factory, watchmaker, baker, butcher, slaughterhouse (5-6 Shochetim), tannery, brush Factory, shoemaker, druggist, brewery, merchants and middlemen, cabs (horsedrawn cabs to other cities) and a bookstore. Kunigisse Gas had two rows of stores on both sides of the Market Place. Shul Gas was over 100 years old in 1910.

There were seven shules in Kelme. The various shules along Shul Gas were established for the various tradesmen. The Gross Beth Midrash was a large brick building serving 800-900 members. Rabbi Zvi Yakov Oppenheim was the leader. Next to the Gross Beth Midrash was the Tehillim Shtieble, serving the "lower class" tradesmen, such as horse traders and gardeners. Across the street was a Klein Beth Midrash and the Shuster (Shoemaker) Shtieble. In Kelme there was also a Chaiadam Shtieble of Rabbi Lapin, for store owners such as butchers and bakers, and the Shul and Talmud Torah on Tavrige Gas of Rabbi Simcha Zicel Braude. (Memories of former resident Harry Wolpert, Baltimore, MD, May 1, 1983, as recorded by Robert Weiss)

Holocaust Research

2,000 Kelmer Jews were murdered and buried 2 miles from Kelme during Menachem Av 5601 (July 1941). United States Holocaust Research Institute Reading Room

Information on neighboring towns may be found on Reel 19 of the Extraordinary Commission as follows:

Frame Numbers Tavrig Rassein Shavli Kedainiai Kovno
429 427 436 421 2, 440
(Research Institute, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC.)

Kelme District Central Library

(Kelmes rajono centrine biblioteka)

Address: Vytauto Didziojo 73, Kelme, LT- 5470 Phone: (97) 53-239

  • Departments:
    • Director: Monika Myniotiene (97) 53-239
    • Acquisitions: (97) 52-745
    • Circulation: (97) 52-351
    • Interlibrary Loan: L. Giros 2,(97) 51-386
    • Education/methodology: (97) 52-745
  • Divisions or Collections:
    • Children Literarture Department: (97) 52-949
  • Library Staff: 16
    • 3 advanced library degree
    • 2 university degree
    • 11 technical school library degree
  • Year Library Founded: 1937
  • Parent Institution: Kelme District Council
  • Previous Names: Public Library
  • Registered Users: 2,865
  • Circulation: 72,264 (1992)
  • Population Served: 43,100
  • Restrictions on use: Rare and valuable books cannot be checked out
  • Number of Book Titles: 33,683
  • Number of Book Volumes: 74,624
  • Language of Publications:
    • 81,9% Lithuanian
    • 27,4% Russian
    • 0,8% other languages
  • Periodicals: 47 titles
  • Collections: Publications related to Kelme region
  • Type of Catalogs: Alphabetic, classified
  • Interlibrary Loans: Yes
  • Source of Acquisition: Book Distribution Center, bookstores, interlibrary loan, donations, gifts
  • Funding Source: State and local government
  • Future Plans: to automate library

Last update 04. 07. 95. Latvian Academic library.


    In books:
    • "Lite"
    • "Yahadut Lite"
    In private hands:
    • Bruce Kahn
    • Boris Feldblyum
    • Jack Weinstein
    • Robert Weiss
    In archives
    • Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, Tel Aviv
    • YIVO, New York


Copies of the following records are owned by Robert Weiss, 3916 Louis Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94303 E-MAIL:

[Individual personal names that are included in these records may be found in the Kelme Directory.]


1816	16	Russian		Revision List 			61 	177
1841   	7 	Polish 		Tax Lists
1851   	8 	Russian 	Revision List Addition 		44 	89
1864   	3 	Russian 	Revision List Addition 		1 	1
1865 	24 	Russian, Hebrew Birth Registry (Full Year)  		38
1869 	29 	Russian, Hebrew Birth Registry (Full Year)		66
1873	 3 	Russian 	Revision List Addition  		10
1874  	4 	Russian 	Revision List Addition  		9
1875  	6 	Russian, Hebrew (Pages from  Kovne) Birth Registry  	16
1891-1904 60 	Russian 	Postal Telegraph Savings Bank Appls 	 58
1895 	56 	Russian 	Universal Census (deteriorated-hard to read)
1907 	12 	Russian, Hebrew (Pages from  Kovne) Birth Registry 	 38
1922-1924 32 	Hebrew, Yiddish Marriage Certificates 		32 	128

Kelme Directory

There is a searchable directory of former residents of the Lithuanian shtetl Kelme in Kovne Guberniya.

The Kelme Directory makes individual information found in archival records, books, and other sources available to students, family members, and researchers. It is a name index which lists residents of Kelme, Lithuania during the 19th and 20th centuries with pointers to sources of additional information which are available to researchers. The Kelme Directory is available through JewishGen.

Sources of information on Kelme residents used and anticipated to be added to the Kelme Directory are as follows:

  • A. Tax and conscription censuses (revizski skazki) from various years between1816 and 1873;
  • B. All-Russian Census of 1897;
  • C. Tax Inventory 1847 (not yet abstracted);
  • D. Kelme Birth Registers from 1865 and 1869;
  • E. Postal-Telegraph Savings Bank applications 1895-1907;
  • F. Kelme births from Kovno Birth Registers from 1875, 1898 and 1907;
  • G. Citations from Vsia Rossia business directories 1895, 1903 and 1911-2;
  • H. Vad HaKehi -24;
  • I. Kelme Arrest List June 26-8,1941;
  • J. "Yiddishe Shtet in Lite" by Berl Kagan;
  • K. "Pinkas HaKehillat-Lita" by Dov Levin (not yet abstracted);
  • L. "Yahadut Lita" (not yet abstracted);
  • M. survivor lists in "Lithuanian Jewish Communities" by Nancy Schoenburg and Stuart Schoenburg;
  • N. "Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry" by Rabbi Ephraim Oshry;
  • O. "Kelem--Etz Karut" by Eeda Markus-Karbalnik and Bat-Sheva Leviton- Karbalnik and Elkhanan Stern

Archival records are from the Lithuanian State Historical Archive in Vilnius, Marriage records are from YIVO in New York, business directories are available in many large libraries, the Arrest List was provided by Bruce Kahn and Saul Issroff and was obtained in Lithuania on a recent trip, the Kelme yizkor book "Kelme-Etz Karut" was provided by the authors, and other book references are available from book stores, publishers, and from the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel. Copies of all of the references above are in my possession. Other sources will be abstracted as they become available and as time and workload permits.

The methodology was to abstract the names of persons who lived in Kelme with their fathers' names, and occupation when known and to indicate the source of the data (from the above list) and page reference to permit further research. In short, the Kelme Directory is a directory of Jews who lived in Kelme during the 19th and first half of the 20th Centuries.

I would like to thank Michael Tobias for translating this Kelme Directory from a Macintosh database on my home machine into a searchable database on JewishGen that may be used by any researcher anywhere in the world. I would also like to thank Warren Blatt for packaging the Directory and including it as one of a number of research tools available to JewishGen and LitvakSIG researchers.

The Kelme Directory may be reached through the JewishGen Searchable Database Page or directly at URL Robert Weiss ( in Palo Alto

To Read More:

  • Encyclopedia Judaica, Jerusalem 1972, Vol. 10, pg. 902 (English)
  • Yidishe Shtet, Shtelech, un dorfishe yishuvim in Lite, Berl Kagan, Brooklyn, NY, 1990, pp. 488-498 (Yiddish)
  • Yahadut Lita, Tel Aviv 1967, Vol. 2, pp. 350-352 (Hebrew)
  • Lite, 1951 (Yiddish)
  • The Shtetl Kelme, Rabbi Chiam Karlinsky, pp. 1437-1452
  • A Short Visit in Lithuania, Alte Arsh-Sudarsky, pp. 1479-1482
  • The Last Day of Kelme, Rabbi Israel Meir Karnovitz, pp. 1845-1850 in Khurban Lite (The Ruins of Lithuania-A Chronicle of the Destruction of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, 1941-1945), Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, New York and Montreal, 1951 (Hebrew), pp 311-315

Other resources:

    The JewishGen Family Finder
    This is where you can find the names of others interested in Kelme. The Family Finder is an interactive database that allows genealogists to trade family and town names, make connections and expand their circles of information. Click the JGFF button to get a list of names and addresses, or click here to add your own information to the database.

    U.S. Holocaust Museum

    The Washington, D.C. museum has a database of documents you can search for references to Beuthen. Click here to launch your search, or here to learn about the museum and its archives.

[Request to be added to the KelmeSIG informal mailing list for latest announcements.]

[Join the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, David Hamelekh Blvd #1, 64953 Tel Aviv, ISRAEL, Tel: 03-696 4 812]

    If you have comments about this page, contact Robert Weiss

ShtetLinks Directory | JewishGen Home page
Updated by J Berman 06 Jan 2002